Past and recent research projects
- Literature, Intertextuality and Feminism in Africa/n Diasporas (1992ff)Hide
My graduate work in English and German literatures and languages was focused on feminist theory and literatures in German, English and French and culminated in my MA thesis (SOAS, London) and PhD dissertation (Humboldt-University, Berlin) on gender perspectives in the works of African women writers. The M.A. thesis examines gender imperatives and perspectives in the works of two Nigerian female writers (Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta) and how their works relate to Ifo, Igbo folktales. Central to this work is a deep interest in investigating the complex relationship between orature and literature.
My interest in these areas blossomed into explorations in other fields, such as discourse analysis, intertextuality, postcoloniality and feminist studies. Consequently, in my PhD dissertation, that was supervised by Prof. Dr. Eckhard Breitinger (University of Bayreuth), I discussed a wide corpus of Nigerian feminist novels, adressing their intertextual relatedness to Igbo orature, in general, and Ifo in particular. The thesis argues that feminist novels adhere to orature in terms of aesthetics while scrutinizing and resituating their predominant gender discourses. My research in these areas produced numerous articles and a dissertation, entitled African Women’s Literature, Orature, and Intertextuality , which was published in 1998 by Bayreuth African Studies, Germany.
These investigations led me to take a closer look at feminist/womanist perspectives and discourses as negotiated in African countries and its diasporas. As a Senior Research Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, I engaged in a project on theoretical foundations and paradigms of African (diasporic) feminist fiction. In doing so, the book, first, established the nature and scope of the given debates and, second, examined how they relate to and differ from African-American feminisms/womanisms and white Western feminisms, e.g., in Britain and Germany. As part of the research, I also worked on aspects of gender transformations in African societies and linked these theoretical discussions on gender and feminism in Africa with African feminist literatures. My work in these areas is documented by, amongst others, the book: Feminismus im Widerstreit, in 2000 with an English translation, The Dynamics of African Feminism, in 2002.
- Fictional Language as “Contact Zone” (1996ff)Hide
Another research interest centres around the question of how fictional language represents and moulds cultural encounters and transculturality. In my PhD dissertation I identified and classified fictional strategies of abrogating, approproating and, ultimately, decolonising the English language by merging it with Igbo terminology and grammar, thus translating English into the novels’ given societal, cultural and linguistic context. Based on these findings, in some of my articles, I delved into the remixing of languages as an aesthetic means to imagine and represent “cultural encounters” and respective power codifications. Closely related is my interest in discussing writing 'as another' and writing 'in another' language. In this respect, I have approached concepts such as exophony and creolization and resituated binary constructs of mother tongue vs. foreign tongue and migrant literature vs. national literature. Research results have been presented in a volume co-edited by me titled Exophonie. Andersprachigkeit (in) der Literatur/Exo-Phony: Other Languages in and of Literature (2007).
- Racism, Resistance and Language (2000ff)Hide
Ever since the early 2000s, my research interest has coalesced around 'race' as an organizing principle, as I continue my inquiry in the context of critical race and critical whiteness studies/theory. Based on analyses of German media, films, literature and non-fiction books, I edited in cooperation witn strudents the volume Afrika Bilder: Studien zu Rassismus in Deutschland/Images of Africa: Studies on Racism in Germany (edited in co-operation with Heiko Thierl and Ralf Walther in 2001, 2nd edition 2006), takes a critical look at the German discourse on Africa. This work was followed in 2004 (2nd ed. 2009) by a book about Africa in the German lexicon – Afrika und die deutsche Sprache: Ein Kritisches Nachschlagewerk/Africa and the German Language: A Critical Handbook, that was written and edited by me in collaboration with students and colleagues. Intensifying the respective research, in 2011, I edited, together with Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard, Wie Rassismus aus Wörtern spricht. Ein Kritisches Nachschlagewerk/ Racism and Language. In this book, criticism of racist terminology is complemented with a scrutiny of the impact of racist discourse on more than 70 concepts of contemporary epistemologies and confronted with the discussion of given resistant terminologies. These analyses of terms are framed by a number of essays on historical and epistemological contexts of these wordings.
Most recently, I published an introduction into the history of racism with C.H. Beck Verlag’s renowned series “Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen”: Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen: Rassismus/The 101 most important questions. Racism (2013, 2nd edition 2015). The analysis of the literary imagination of British, US-American and German writing have been important sources for this book. Moreover, a book on “The Black Civil Rights Movement” is forthcoming with C.H. Beck, taking the findings of Critical Race Studies and Gender Studies as well as US-American fictional imaginations into account.
- Representations of Whiteness and Gender in British and German Writing (2003 ff)Hide
Utilizing theories of critical race studies, since 2004 I have been pursuing research on 'whiteness' as a category of (literary) analysis. I am the co-editor of the first edited volume that focuses on interdisciplinary perspectives on presentations of whiteness in German society, culture and literature (Mythen, Masken und Subjekte. Kritische Weißseinsforschung in Deutschland/Myths, Masks and Subjects. Critical Whiteness Studies in Germany, 2005, 2nd edition 2009). Currently, I am finalising a monograph entitled Provincialising Literature. Myths of Whiteness and Gender in British Fiction and World Literatures in English.
- Diaspora Studies and Fiction (2003 ff)Hide
Based on the framework of Critical Race Studies, I have focused on literary negotiations of diaspora, migration, and gender. One of my research results is a co-edited volume titled Africa, Europe and (Post)Colonialism. Racism, Migration and Diaspora in African Literatures (2006), for which I have written an extensive introduction dealing with fictional representations of (African) diaspora(s), 'race' and gender. Moreover, I have co-edited a volume of essays by African writers discussing political processes in both Africa and (African diasporas in) Europe (Kreatives Afrika. SchriftstellerInnen über Literatur, Theater und Gesellschaft, 2005/English edition: Words and Worlds. African Writing, Literature and Society, 2006). These volumes bring together renowned scholars in the fields of postcolonial studies, African studies, diasporic studies and transcultural literary studies.
Most recently, in co-operation with Peggy Piesche, I have started a research project on Anton Wilhelm Amo, Germany’s first Black philosopher (note: capitalisation of Black marks the political position of Blackness). This project delves into his impact on the German enlightenment just as much as the history of silencing his work (Susan Arndt and Peggy Piesche, eds. Transcultural Enlightenment and African Diasporic Legacy. The Case of Anton Wilhelm Amo).
Last but not least, this research focus feeds into the annual BIGSAS Festival of African and African-diasporic literatures that is directed by Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard and me.
- Transcultural English Studies (2010ff)Hide
In one of my most recent fields of reseach, I have been exploring the challenge of how to frame the study of world literatures written in English in the 21st century. Theoretically indebted to Ottmar Ette and his writings about “literature on the move” (2003), Gayatri Spivak and her notions of planetarity, as discussed in Death of a Discipline (2003), as well as Édouard Glissant and his Poétique de la Relation (1990), I trust in reconceptualisations of literary studies that rely on comparative approaches that 1) overcome the pigeonholes of national literatures; 2) provincialise the canon; 3) re-centre postcolonial literatures; and 4) transgress the focus on one-language-only, provided that linguistic competence is given.
Thus framed, Transcultural English Studies permits to read literature holistically as a flow of the represented “survival knowledge” (Ette) through various times and places (through Glissant’s totalité-monde). Intersecting with transnationalism, translocality and transmigration, Transcultural English Studies opens new perspectives on cultural, social, sociological and political overall contexts and, thus, contemporary global master narratives such as technical revolution and ethics, power and resistance, colonialism and whiteness. This concept has been introduced in my inaugural lecture in October 2012.
- Popular Cultures (2006ff)Hide
I also work on performance, popular culture and new media. First research findings were published in 2007 under the title Popular Cultures, Gender and Performance: Orature, Theatre and New Media in Africa. Recently, together with my German-Nigerian colleague Dr. Shola Adenekan, I plan to install a research project on Nigeria’s earliest popular writings: Onitsha Market literature. These brochures from the 1930s to 1950s, archived in the British Library and the library of Goethe-University, Frankfurt/M., have not been given decent scholarly attention. We intend to publish a critical edition and a collectively-authored monograph that focuses on the representation of class, nation, gender and sexuality in this early Nigerian “dream-factory”, comparing it to the British Pacesetter Series, publishing romances for a Nigerian audience, as well as Nollywood productions.
- Future Studies/Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies (2012ff)Hide
As part of a core team of four scholars from geography (Prof. Detlef Müller-Mahn), sociology (Prof. Dieter Neubert) and history (Prof. Achim von Oppen), I successfully applied to the German Ministry of Education and Research for a research project on “Future Africa. Visions in Time” that hosted 12 Principal Investigators and 11 Post-doc researchers from more than 20 disciplines and led to the establishment of the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies. Research interest is directed at visions of the future that have been generated in Africa and its diasporas, focussing on their impacts on Africa, conviviality and the globe. After all, African contributions to world histories have written futures, and Africa and its diasporas will keep on generating futures which manifest how strongly entangled Africa/n diasporas are in global structures, epistemologies and dynamics.
Apart from being the founding co-director of the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies (2012-2015), I am also (together with Dr. Henriette Gunkel from Goldsmith College, London) Principal Investigator of a sub-project on “Mediaspaces, Technology and Diasporas” hosting a collaboration with Dr. Mariam Popal and Ms. Peggy Piesche (MA). It is dedicated to fictional conceptualisations of the future in the overlapping and intersection of the internet, imagination and Africa/n Diasporas, in general, and Black Britain, in particular. In doing so, literary and media studies are mobilized as (trans)cultural “life science” (Ottmar Ette). Consequently, Fiction, Diaspora and the Internet are approached as spaces with entangled histories that generate entangled futures which promise creative solutions for global challenges. It is our aim to identify the effects of conceptualisations of the future on global archives of knowledge, transcultural dialogicity and translocal conceptualisations of futures in Europe/Britain, Africa and the United States. Thus, the relationship between the future and technology, in general, and the future and the Internet, in particular, form the core subjects of this research project.
My personal research focus is directed at a theoretisation of future (and spacetime), mobilising it as a critical category. Thus framed, Peggy Piesche, Deborah Nyangulu and me write a monograph on Future as a Critical Category, reading future in given entanglements mith memory, the past, just as much as the present. Moreover, together with Peggy Piesche, we work on an edited volume on Technology, Internet and its Effects on Diaspora, Notions of Race and Conceptions of the Future. Moreover, I am co-editing a book on Specters of Ethics in the Circuits of Globalization and Futurity (co-edited with Dr. Mariam Popal and Prof. Rinaldo Walcott, forthcoming 2016) as well as conversations between Fellows of the Bayreuth Academy in Summer Term 2015 about concepts that matter in terms of futurity.
In June 2016, the annual convention of the ALA came, for the very first time, to Europe with Bayreuth as host. It dedicated its topic to this research agenda on futurity, titled “African Futures and Beyond. Visions in Transition”.
- Transcultural Shakespeare (2015ff)Hide
Research on intertextuality and the possible sources of Shakespeare’s plays is a prevalent field of studies predominantly focusing on European textual interactions. Based on a farewell symposium [SA1] for Prof., Prof. h.c. Dr. Michael Steppat (University of Bayreuth, editor of The New Variorum Shakespeare) with kenyote lecturer Prof. Paul Werstine (Kent University, Canada and co-general editor of The New Variorum Shakespeare edition) a research project has grown that looks at the sources of Shakespeare’s plays that originate from Africa, the MENA region or South East Asia. Treasures of world literature such as Alf Layla wa Layl, known in English as The Arabian Nights, as well as Asian and African oral narratives (folktales, legends, praise poetry etc.) have left traces of intertextual encounters in Shakespeare’s text. For one thing, the research project aims to identify and analyse these traces. For another, it looks for explanations for these encounters, inquiring into the roots and routes of Shakespeare’s knowledge of these sources. Of course, London was a space of transcultural encounters. Shakespeare, eagerly looking for stories, could have met and asked people from these regions to share their stories with him. I hope to find traces of such encounters, such as reports of travellers, in European (e.g., British and Spanish), African (e.g., Northern countries and Egypt) and Asian (e.g., Iranian and Thai) archives. In doing so, a research group is to be constituted. As a result, the project intends to publish a series of monographs featuring Shakespeare’s intertextual dialogicity with narrations of African and Asian literary traditions. My personal focus will be dedicated to Othello (and his African sources) as well as to tracing the origins for Shakespeare’s queer reconceptualisations of fairness, accrediting it to white men and Black women.
- International Conference “Transcultural Shakespeare”
- Edited Volume: Transcultural Shakespeare. Postcolonial Rereadings of Sources and Legacies (together with Samira Paraschiv, Nabil Barham, Anouar Messada, Weeraya Donsomsakulkij, Joyce Anchimbe, Yuan Mingqing, Lukas Heger, Dilan Zoe Smida)
- Forscher*innengruppe (DFG) with Samira Paraschiv, Nabil Barham, Anouar Messada, Weeraya Donsomsakulkij, Joyce Anchimbe, Yuan Mingqing, Lukas Heger, Dilan Zoe Smida
- International Conference “Transcultural Shakespeare”
- Knowledge and Technology and Ethics. Un/Making Bodies and Global Future(s) (2015ff)Hide
I intend to kick off a research project that explores knowledge of/about technology and gender needed for the un/making of future_bodies in a global context of naturecultures (Cecile Åsberg) and spacetime (Karen Barad).
“The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed“, writes William Gibson. Recently, the genetic and digital revolution has opened new options for the FutureS of humanity (the capital S stresses that future is always wo*man-made and exists only in a polyphonous plural) that is simultaneously challenged to redistribute energy, resources and climate responsibility. Consequently, a reorganisation of the distribution of FutureS and the challenge of distributing it (more) equally is an option that is generating narrations that envision FutureS in the plural and in the making, redefining human power just as much as power about/of/off/beyond the human body. This is particularly true given the fact that processes of transgressing spaces, times and bodies have resituated invented “norms” like Europe, progress or masculinity lastingly, triggering new mappings, narrations and visions. Consequently, FutureS in the 21st century, precondition a transcultural discussion and sharing of knowledge about an ethics of genetics, energy, ecology, climate, health and economy.
New technologies like genetic engineering and biotechnology redefined nourishment and reproduction, birth and death (sperm banking, reprogenetics, reproductive medicine, cryobiology etc.). The ICT (information and communication technologies), in turn, brought about the digital revolution that generated the Information Age. This enabled the intensified sharing of information, knowledge and ethics with an accelerated speed and into diversified spaces with exponentially growing options and challenges that require digital literacy as well as competency in ‘doing’ the genetic and digital revolution. Consequently, new epistemologies are needed that revisit knowledge and technology (as both knowledge about technology and knowledge offered by technology) and the thus given context of an ethics for the future of technology.
Thus framed, the project will delve into the intersection of knowledge, technology, ethics and future. In doing so, the technology’s impact on generating FutureS is discussed in a diachronic, transdisciplinary and transcultural perspective with a keen focus on the travelling of ethics and knowledge as framed intersectionally in and beyond gender_ability_age_race_class. The research agenda is framed by feminist technoscience studies (as indebted to Donna Haraway, Karen Barad and Cecilia Åsberg) that transgress dystopic fears of technology, rather envisioning future technologies as a means to share futures in equality, liberating the ‘othered’ body and pursuing post-humanist futures.
Feminist and postcolonial technoscience generate visions and narratives that envision future technologies as a pool of new possibilities and power constellations that happen to share FutureS more equally and based on newly negotiated paradigms. Part and parcel of this vision is the insistence on a linguistic turn that dares to atomise given categories and binarisms, yet managing to address the opaque and rhizomic intraaction of spacetimematter (Karen Barad). “Less divided, more differentiated”, as Cecilia Åsberg puts it
- International Conference: Knowledge, Technology and GenEt(h)ics. Un/Making Bodies and Global Future(s) with
- Edited Volume: Knowledge, Technology and GenEt(h)ics. Un/Making Bodies and Global Future(s)
- In the Landscape of Signs and the Body of Things: un/doing Environmental KnowledgeHide
This research project, composed in co-operation with Prof. Peter Simatei, Dr. Samuel Ndogo and Weeraya Donsomsakulkij (PhD candidate), aims at analyzing narratives about environmental knowledge and sustainability in order to understand the intersection of literature and environmental issues and the former’s engagement with the potentially destructive forms of social/environmental development. Starting off from the assumption that different perspectives, subjectivities and agencies often produce varying and yet entangled “truths” about environmental knowledge and that the field of imagination and aesthetics open up unique approaches to representing environmental knowledge, this project will thus focus on narration in its wider sense, comprising fictional texts, ethnographic texts, sounds, visual languages, sets of images, codes and/or numbers that rely on and feed into epistemologies of environment.
Methodologically, this research is anchored in what has come to be known as ecological literary criticism or eco-criticism and post-humanism that, in a nutshell, considers what the human/ism did to the world, structurally and discursively. Transgressing the binarisms of nature and culture, human and nun-human, animated and non-animated, post-humanism accredits the archipelic spacetimes of performances beyond modes of positioned identities and their modes of othering. Being interdisciplinary methods of criticism, literary studies will be entangled with other disciplines such as ecology, biology, anthropology and geography, in order to examine how literary works represent and nourish discourses about environmental knowledge and sustainability.
Beginning by first establishing the grounds of intersection of these disciplines with ecological literary criticism, the project proceeds to analyze primary data (fictional texts, ethnographic texts, sounds, visual languages, sets of images) to demonstrate how by intertwining the categories of race, class, species, un/animated, non/human these texts challenge binarisms of human versus non-human; nature versus culture and animated versus unanimated and how they negotiate the hegemony of the human, by imagining nonhuman agencies, thus re/producing and subverting environmental knowledge for sustainability of the environment.
Some of the core research questions are: How is environmental knowledge re/presented and thus produced, mediated and negotiated? Which categories, topoi and aesthetics are mobilized by environmentalist activists and campaigns when re/narrating nature and environment? How do our metaphors of the land influence the way we treat it? How does human knowledge give voice to, appropriate and/or silence non-human knowledge about nature and environment? How are agency and knowledge beyond the human/animated be identified/evaded/silenced/empowered etc.? Does the field of imagination and aesthetics open up unique approaches to representing environmental knowledge? How is environmental knowledge appropriated for the sake of different and even competing interests?
International Conference “In the Landscape of Signs and the Body of Things: un/doing Environmental Knowledge”
Edited Volume with Peter Simatei, Samuel Ndogo and Weeraya Donsomsakulkij
Monograph: un*animated, non*human, nature*culture. Beyond Binarisms - Posthumanism meets Postcolonialism (co-authored, with Weeraya Donsomsakulkij)
- Representations of Enslaved Labour and Enslaving Labour in British, US-American and Ghanaian FictionHide
Title: Maafa Labour and the Entangled Literary Imagination. Representations of Enslaved Labour and Enslaving Labour in British, US-American and Ghanaian Fiction
Relying on transregional and genealogical axes and grounded in TransArea Studies, this research project intersects African Studies, Cultural Studies and Transcultural English/American Studies. It will focus on fictional negotiations of “Maafa labour” (both “enslaved labour” and “enslaving labour”, as I call it) in US-American, Ghanaian and British literatures, comparing them and contextualizing them with other fictional and non-fictional texts. Given intersections with (physical, spiritual and intellectual) violence and resistance and/as labour is at the fore. Thus framed, US-American, British and Ghanaian literatures will be read as intellectual pillars of the “Maafa labour” (as involved with resistance and violence) in order to identify and analyse the share of the literary imagination in justifying, scrutinising, abolishing and remembering Maafa/unfree labour.
Monograph: Maafa Labour and the Entangled Literary Imagination. Representations of Enslaved Labour and Enslaving Labour in British, US-American and Ghanaian Fiction (co-authored, with Shirin Assa, Anouar Messada and Samira Paraschiv)